Category Archive : Generic

The history of the Olympic Games

The Ancient Olympics: Spectators and Events

The Ancient Olympics: Spectators and Events

The Events : In total the Olympic Games consisted of 10 events: running, pentathlon, jumping, discus, javelin, wrestling, boxing, the pangkration, chariot racing, and horse racing.

The history of Olympic Games

Ancient Olympic Games

Ancient Olympic Games

The first Olympic Games were organized in ancient Greece around 776 B.C. and were held with the utmost regularity every four years ever after for over 1000 years, devoted to Zeus, between August 6 and September 19.

The four years period in between two Olympic Games was called an Olympiad and was used as a meter of chronology.

The spirit of sport and friendly rivalry was the ideal of these Olympic games. The “Olympic truce”, that is the ceasing of fighting in the whole Greek world for as long as the Olympic games were on, was strictly observed with one or two excemptions.

The Spartans in 420 BC were excluded from the games on the ground of truce breaking.

In 426BC emperor Theodosius II ordered the destruction of the temples and the Altis was burnt.
Taking part in the Games was a great honor for the athlete and his native city.

The athletes were men of Greek origin that had not commited crime of sacrilege(had done something unholly).

The athletes competed in nude.Women were strickly forbiden to watch the games, with the excemption of the priestess of Demeter Chamyne. Violation of this rule was punishable by death.

According to Pausanias, the only time this rule was broken and the death sentence was not carried out, was the case of Kallipateira, daughter of the Rhodian Diagoras, who came to the stadium disguised as the trainer to encourage her son Peisidorus who was taking part in the games.

In her enthusiasm for his victory jumping over the trainers’ enclosure wall, her chiton fell down revealing her feminity.

The Hellanodikai, spared her life out of respect to her family, the Diagorides, who had three generations of Olympic winners: her father Diagoras, her brothers Eukleas and Kallianaktas and her son Peisidorus.

This incident was the reason for passing the law, which compelled the trainers to attend the stadium nakes, like the athletes..

Organization of the Games

Diskobolos (discus thrower) 2nd century

Diskobolos (discus thrower) 2nd century

The highest dignitaries of the Games were the 12 Hellanodikai (umpires), responsible for organizing the games and application of the rules.

They had the authority to disqualify individuals because of violation of the rules and to impose fines and punish those concerned.

They were helped by the alytai( a kind of policemen), the mastigophoroi(whippers) and the ravdouchoi( staff bearers).

All of them answered to the alytarch(chief of police).

Being part of religious ceremonies, there were also, the theokoloi, who conducted the sacrifices, the spondoforoi, assigned to travel throughout the Greek world to announce the Games and the celebrations, the seers that gave prophecies and had special prestige, the priests for special sacrifices, the flute players, the dancers and the head of ceremonies.

Ten months before the begining of the Games, the Hellanodikai stayed in a special building where they were informed of their duties and learned the rules of the Games.

The athletes had to announce to them their participation one year before the Games began. One month before the Games they had to come to Olympia with their trainers in order to prepare themselves.

The Games lasted five days. During the first day the opening ceremony was carried out.

The athletes registered and in front of the Zeus Orkios, they and their tariners, took a vow(orkos). They vowed that “they compete fairly and without violating the rules”.

The Hellanodikai also took a vow to be honest and fair in their judgements.

The second day included horse and chariot races in the hippodrome and the pentathlon. The third day was the most important.

It included glorious rites devoted to the worship of Zeus in the morning.

There was a large festive procession of priests, athletes, the Hellanodikai, and notables of Ellis and of the other Greek cities.

In the afternoon the foot races were held. The fourth day the so called heavy events – wrestling, boxing, the pankration and the race in armor took place.

The fifth and last day the festive awarding of the prizes was carried out in front of the statue of Zeus.

The crowning of the winners took place amongst the applause, the hymns and songs of the friends and relatives and the celebrations would last until the next morning.

The Olympic winner received as a prize an olive tree crown as well as other important prizes in kind and money and the victory gave the athlete great fame during his lifetime and posthumously.

A victory ode was written especially for him as well as a statue of the athlete was made.

The statue portrayed the ideal of the “good and honest” man.

His native city participated in his victory and his proud fellow citizens knocked down part of the city walls through which he made his entry.

The Events

The foot – race

The foot – race is the oldest contest that took place in Olympia.

The athletes were running nude, in an area around 600 feet (192.27m), called one Stadion.

This distance gave its name to the area used for the performance of the event.

The stadiums, were situated on hillsides or in small valleys, thus enabling the spectators to follow the events.

Later and as the crowd of spectators grew, artificial slopes were built and the spectators sat on the ground. The stadium at Olympia had a capacity of 45,000 spectators.
There are no records of the achievements of the athletes during Archaic times as there were no means of the keeping of time.

Pentathlon

The Ancient Olympics Events

The Ancient Olympics Events

The pentathlon was a combination of events. It included jumping, running, javelin, discus and wrestling.

The athlete had to combine many qualities and skills of the body.

Jumping Similar to the long jump.

The athlete jumped into a pit holding halters in his hands.
Discus An event loved by the Greeks most and known from Homeric poems.

A moment of discus throwing is captured in the famous statue of the Discus-thrower, opposite the Panathinaic Stadium, in Athens.
Javelin One of the favorite events of many mythical heroes. We find the “ekevolon” javelin throwing which was judged by the distance the javelin was thrown, and the “stohastikon” javelin throwing where the javelin was thrown at a specific target.
Wrestling It is refered to for the first time in Homer’s Labors for Patroclos. One of the pentathlon events but also independent in the Panhellenic games. Even today it is called Greek – Roman wrestling.
Boxing One of the oldest events, as shown by the early reference to the event by Homer and the representation of two children boxing on the mural from Akrotiri in Santorini.

The Pangkration

The Pangkration

The Pangkration A combination of wrestling and boxing, it was considered as the most worthy event for men in the games.

The horse races Took place in the hippodrome, a space used for the horse races. The horse races comprised of various events and were conducted with horses, chariots and quadriga.The most spectacular event was the quadriga race, an event in which the most prominent historic personalities had competed.

THE HERAIA

Runners-in-Heraia

Runners-in-Heraia

Independently of the Olympic games, THE HERAIA, foot races for women only in honor of Hera, were also taking place in Olympia. These games were also held every four years .

The women ran having their hair loose, dressed in short tunics. There is a perfect image at a statue in the Athens Archaeological museum of a girl taking part in the games.

Chronological history of Greece

Chronological history of Greece

7000 BC First Stone Age settlements in mainland Greece.
2500 BC Bronze Age is effective on mainland and some islands.
1550 BC  Mycenaean civilization started on mainland Greece.
1450 BC  Mycenaean culture spreads to islands.
1200 BC Disappearance of Mycenaean civilization.
1100 BC Dorian movements to the islands and Asia Minor.
776   BC  First official Olympic Games recorded in Greece.
800-600 BC First Greek city-states appear, Athens and Sparta are among them.
545 BC Persian invasion of Asia Minor cities.
490 BC Persian incursion and the battle of Marathon.
479   BC Persian invasion of mainland Greece.
430-404 B.C. War between Athens and Sparta ends in Spartan victory.
359  B.C.  Philip II became the king of Macedonia.
336 B.C. After Philip II, Alexander the Great became the king of Macedonia.
0-300 AD Romans rule Greece.
324 AD     Emperor Constantine established the Byzantium and Constantinople became the capital.
529A.D.     Non-Christian schools of Philosopy in Athens were forced to close.
650A.D.    Invasion of Greece by Slavic tribes.
800A.D    Byzantium established the control over Greece again.
1200A.D  Latin – Venetian crusaders took control of Greece.
1260A.D  Byzantium reclaimed the control over Greece.
1430A.D  Ottomans conquered Thessaloniki.
1453A.D  Ottomans conquered Constantinople. This marks the end of Byzantium.
1460A.D  Ottomans took Mystra.
1522A.D  Ottomans conquered Rhodes.
1566A.D   Ottomans took Chios and Naxos.
1577A.D   Samos taken by Ottomans
1669A.D   Ottomans conquered whole Crete.
1685-1715   Venetians occupied Peloponnese
1799-1814    France, Russia and Britain occupied Ionian islands successively.
1821-1830 Greece gained independence against Turks after the sea battle of Navarino (25th March – Independence Day).
1831           President Kapodistrias was assasinated.
1833          Othon was declared as the king of Greece by Russia, France and Britain.
1864          Britain gave the control of Corfu and Ionian islands to Greece.
1881          Ottomans surrendered Thessaly to Greece.
1912          First Balkan war and Greece reclaimed Thessaloniki, Ioanina and Chios.
1913          2nd Balkan war. Greece gains Crete, Lesbos and Ikaria.
1914          World War I. Greece joins the war on the side of Allied forces.
1919           Britain and France convinced Greece to annex the land at Smyrna (Izmir) in Turkey.
1919-1923  After the collapse of Ottoman Empire, the existing conditions triggered a war between Greece and newly formed Turkey. Greece lost the war and Greek population in Anatolia was exchanged with Turkish population in Greece (Lausane Treaty).
1936          After a long period of political chaos, General Metaxas became dictator.
1939          After the invasion of Albania,Italy demanded access to Greek ports. Metaxas refused (28th October “Ochi Day”). Victorious battles against the Italians. Greek troops push Italians back towards Italy.
1941          World War II and the German invasion.
1944          After 3 years of German occupation, British troops took the county back from Germans.
1945-1949  Civil war between royalists and communists.
1951      Night of terror in Constantinople. Violent Turkish riots against the Greeks result in the elimination of a 300,000     minority in the City.
1967      Military junta took control of political power.
1973      Pro-democracy movement mainly led by students was crushed by fascist junta and a large number of students were brutally killed.
1974      Military junta supported a right-wing Greek coup in Cyprus. This led to Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus. Turkey is still occupying the Northern part of Cyprus.
1975-1999 The Junta falls. Socialist PASOK and right-wing New Democracy Party maintain the democratic process uninterruptedly since then.
2000         Greece, now part of the single-currency European Union, is one of the world’s 25 most developed countries. Its strong economy, its stable and flourishing society make Greece the guarantor of peace and progress in the Balkans.

 

Fighting for Athens: the Battle of Marathon

Fighting for Athens: the Battle of Marathon

A tour to the historical Marathon battle area

A visit to the archaeological site, the Tymvos burial mound in an olive grove with a plaque that commemorates the great victory and the Marathon Museum and if the weather permits it, a swim at the sandy beach of Shinias where the Persian fleet landed, is one of the things you must do when you visit Athens.

Marathon is still one of Attica’s loveliest and well known spots. Everyone has heard the story of the Persian army defeat at Marathon at the hands of the Athenians. Imagine marching several thousand miles only to be wiped out 27 miles from the city you came to conquer by an army a fraction of your size. There is not much to see of the battlefield really. Main source of information about the battle in Marathon is the historian Herodotus. According to him, the Persian fleet landed 100,000 troops on Shinias in the year 490 B.C. Against this huge army the Athenians brought 10,000 soldiers and with the help of 1,000 Plataian soldiers, thanks to an ingenious strategic plan of the Greek army commander, Miltiades, they were victorious. They formed the Greek letter (Pi) with weak centre and strong sides, and when the battle started, the central section retreated and the sides closed in and squeezed the panicked Persian soldiers. Thousands of Persians were killed or drowned in the swamp nearby, (where the rowing venue of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games is), while the Athenians had 192 soldiers dead, all burried in the tymvos area. It is E.N.Gardiners’ observation that, ” the victory of the Greeks over the Persians…was the victory of a handful of trained athletes over the hordes of flabby barbarians.”

Legend wants an Athenian soldier named, Philippides, to run from the battlefield all the way into Athens in order to bring the good news. He ran all the way from Marathon to the Athenian Agora. He collapsed and died immediately after he delivered his one word message; Nenikikamen (We have won). In memory of this great victory, the Marathon run was performed in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and since then, it is the last event of the Olympic Games. Here is the starting point of the authentic distance. If you think that you are fit enough, you are free to try your physical condition on this classical Marathon run 42,195m.

Today’s amazing thing about Marathon is the marble dam, the only dam in the world made out of marble, that holds the water that supplies Athens.

 

HALF DAY TOUR TO MARATHON

Upon request, we organise half day tours (+/- 5 hrs) from Athens to Marathon driving along the Athenian North suburbs. At Marathon we visit the “tymvos” burial mound, the museum and end the tour at the sandy beach of Shinias for a swim.

 

The Grand Meteoro monastery. The highest and biggest of the six monasteries open to the public.

METEORA

The Grand Meteoro monastery. The highest and biggest of the six monasteries open to the public.

The Grand Meteoro monastery. The highest and biggest of the six monasteries open to the public.

The Meteora are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Six monasteries, open to the public today, built on natural sandstone rocks, over the town of Kalambaka.

The 64 gigantic rocks, made of conglomerate, create a spectacle, unique worldwide.

There are several theories regarding the creation of these rocks.

The prevailing theory is that one of the German geologist Philipson. According to Philipson, million of years ago the area was a huge lake and 3 rivers had their estuaries in this area.

The rivers brought, stones and material, from central Europe.

From the accumulation of these materials deltaic cones were formed.

About 30 million years ago, after geological changes that took place, the central part of today’s Europe was lifted the Alpes and the valley of Tempi were formed and an outlet for these waters to the Aegean Sea was created.

During the time of the alpine mountain orogenesie, solid volumes of “rocks” were cut off from the mountain chain of Pindus and as the centuries went by, the plain of the river of Pinios was formed between them.

Orogenesis refers to severe structural deformation of the Earth’s crust due to the engagement of tectonic plates.

The word “orogenesis” comes from the Greek (oros that means “mountain” and genesis for “creation” or “origin”).

It is the mechanism by which mountains are built on continents.

Orogenie develops while a continental plate is crumpled and thickened to form mountain ranges, and involve a great range of geological processes collectively called orogenesis.

Following the continuous corrosion by the wind, rain and other geological changes these rocks took their present form. A spectacle “unique” worldwide.

At the cavities, fissures and peaks of these rock towers people found protection from enemies that invaded from time to time the area.

Some of these rocks reach 1800 ft or 550m above the plain.

This great height, combined with the sheerness of the cliff walls, kept away all but the most determined visitors.

Hermits and anchorites found shelter on these rocks, seeking mental calmness and tranquillity, while praying and seeking for Christian perfection.

According to the existing scripts monk hood is present from the 1st millennium. Initially the hermits were isolated, meeting on Sundays and special days to worship and pray not only for their salvation but also for the salvation of all people, in a small chapel that was built at the foot of a rock known as Doupiani .

Their life was simple and the work hard.

According to scripts, Barnabas, the monk who established the cloister of the Holy Ghost is mentioned as the first hermit at 950-970 AD, followed by the monk Andronikos from Crete, who established the cloister of the Transfiguration of Jesus in the early 1000 AD.

Later and around 1150-1160 AD the Cloister of Doupiani was established.

Except the aforementioned cloisters others also existed in several cavities around the rock of Doupiani.

At the beginning of the 12th c. in the area of the Meteora a small ascetic state was formed, having as centre of worship the church of Mother of God extant until today at the north part of the rock of Doupiani.

The hermits were flowing to this small church from their hermitages in order to perform their common worship, to discuss the several problems that concerned them and to ask for the help from other hermits in order to carry out the hard work. The leading man of the cloister of Doupiani had the title of the “first”.

Almost 200 years later, in the middle of the 14th c. the Monastery of the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mount was established by Holy Athanassios, who gave the big rock the name Meteoro. Since then all the rocks have this name.

During the 14th and 15th c. a time of great prosperity for the monk hood in the Meteora we have the creation of many more Monasteries and their number reaches 24. In the middle of the 14th c. monk Neilos, founded the Holy Monastery of Ascension (the Holy Monastery of Ypapanti-Candle Mass, today), and in 1517, Nectarios and Theophanes built the monastery of Varlaam, which was reputed to house the finger of St John and the shoulder blade of St Andrew.
Access to the monasteries was deliberately difficult.

The first hermits climbed up the rocks using scaffolds wedged in holes of the rocks. They felt safe from political upheaval and had complete control of the entry to the monastery. Later on, the only means of reaching the monasteries was by climbing ropes, windlass and long ladders, which were drawn up whenever the monks felt threatened.

The monastery of Varlaam has an extensive net and pulley system, from which rope nets are let down several hundred feet by a windlass, today used for lifting up provisions.

The ropes were replaced, as the monks say, only “when the Lord let them break”. In the 1920s the first steps were carved in the rocks. There is a common belief that St. Athanasius (founder of the first monastery) did not scale the rock, but was carried there by an eagle.

As years went by, under several difficulties, conquerors of the area, thieves’ raids and other factors, many of the flourishing Monasteries were abandoned (period of decline after the 17th c) and during World War II the site was bombed and many art treasures were stolen by the Germans.

Today, the tradition continues for over 600 years, uninterrupted in 6 monasteries, 4 inhabited by monks and 2 by nuns.
According to popularity they are: the Monastery of the Great Meteoro, the Varlaam Monastery, the St Stephen Monastery, the Holy Trinity Monastery, the St Nicolas Anapafsas Monastery and the Roussanou Monastery. Each of them has fewer than 10 inhabitants.

Furthermore, with the generous efforts of the monks, of the local Bishop Serafim and the contribution of the state, the E.E.U. and several citizens, some more monasteries have been restored and maintained, such as:
1) The monastery of St Nicolas Badovas (dependent on the Holy Trinity monastery), and
2) Of Ypapanti-Candle Mass (dependent on the monastery of the Transfiguration or Great Meteoro).

We feel that the Meteora belong to everybody.

This is your chance to see the “unique” spectacle and visit the monasteries.

Peloponnese map
Peloponnese map

Peloponnese map

The Peloponesse, Greece’s southern peninsula, is rich in history.

You can start with the ancient sites of Corinth, Epidaurus and Mycenae, all easily reached from Nafplion.

Further south, you can explore the medieval Byzantine city of Mystras near Sparta on the slopes of Mt Taygetos, with its winding paths and stairways leading to deserted palaces and fresco-adorned churches and the area of Mani, a region of bleak mountains and barren landscapes broken only by imposing stone towers, mostly abandoned but still standing sentinel over the region.

Other attractions in the Peloponesse include the beautiful medieval castle island of Monemvasia, the Ancient Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games, and the thrilling Diakofto-Kalavryta, rack-and-pinion railway, which roller coasts its way through the deep Vouraikos river Gorge.

Following the paths of monks to Meteora

The Meteora is a complex of Eastern Orthodox monasteries built on natural sandstone pillars. The sandstone pillars are beautiful. Today six are open to the public. Four monasteries and two nunneries.

If there is one place that you must visit is Meteora in central Greece. This huge Eastern Orthodox monastic complex is unlike anywhere else in the world – and despite how overused this phrase is nowadays, at Meteora it means the exact picture. If the unearthly landscape of massive pillar-like mountains and columns weren’t striking enough, monks went ahead and built huge monasteries ON TOP of them 800 years ago. 6 of them are still working monasteries nowadays and are open to the public if you are willing to make the trek up to them.

A view from Meteora is spectacular no matter where you stand, and it will make even the most seasoned traveler say “wow” out loud. In fact, While Greece is full of beautiful vistas and spectacular sites, you’d be hard-pressed to find one more unique and with so many fabulous views as you get in Meteora.

The World Heritage monasteries of Meteora, in the middle of Greece, are one of the most extraordinary sights.
Built on top of huge pinnacles of smooth rocks, the monasteries

Meteora map

Meteora map

provided monks with peaceful havens from increasing bloodshed as the Byzantine Empire waned at the end of the 14th c. The earliest monasteries were reached by climbing removable ladders. Later, windlasses were used so monks could be hauled up in nets, a method used until the 1920s. Apprehensive visitors enquiring how often the ropes were replaced were told ‘When the Lord lets them break’.

These days access to the monasteries is by steps hewn into the rocks and the windlasses are used only for hauling up provisions.

Don’t miss this unique place at this special price!

Cyclades Islands
Cyclades Islands

Cyclades Islands

The Cycladic islands epitomise the postcard image of the Greek islands: dazzling white buildings are offset by bright-blue church domes, while golden beaches meet an aquamarine sea.

Some of the Cyclades, such as Mykonos, Santorini, Paros and Ios, have vigorously embraced the tourist industry; others, such as Andros, Kea, Serifos and Sikinos, are visited infrequently by foreigners but are favourites with holiday-makers from Athens.

Mykonos is the most expensive and heavily visited of all Greek islands. It has the most sophisticated nightlife and is the undisputed gay capital of Greece.

Barren, low-lying Mykonos would never win a Greek-island beauty contest, but it does have superb beaches.

The town is a mixture of chic boutiques and houses with brightly painted balconies draped in bougainvillea and clematis.

Santorini is regarded as the most spectacular of the Greek islands. It’s a “unique” sight.

Thousands of tourists come every year to gape at the caldera, a vestige of what was probably the world’s largest volcanic eruption, ever.

Despite the crowds who visit in summer, Santorini’s weirdness, apparent in its black-sand beaches and mighty cliffs, holds a distinct allure.

And if you want to escape the tourist crowds, Sikinos, Anafi and the tiny islands to the east of Naxos offer some respite.

Map Dodecanese
Map Dodecanese

Map Dodecanese

Strung along the coast of western Turkey, the Dodecanese islands is much closer to Asia Minor than to mainland Greece.

Because of their strategic and vulnerable position, these islands have been subjected to an even greater catalogue of invasions and occupations than the rest of Greece – Egyptians, the Knights of St John, Turks and Italians have all done their bit as conquerors.

Rhodes is the largest of the Dodecanese islands and its town is the largest inhabited medieval settlement in Europe.

The Avenue of the Knights is lined with magnificent medieval buildings, the most impressive of which is the Palace of the Grand Masters, restored, but never used, as a holiday home for Mussolini.

Map Greek Island of Crete
Map Greek Island of Crete

Map Greek Island of Crete

Greece’s largest island has the dubious distinction of playing host to a quarter of all visitors to Greece.

It’s still possible to find some peace by visiting the undeveloped west coast, the rugged mountainous interior and the villages of the Lassithi plateau.

Crete was the centre of the Minoan culture, Europe’s first advanced civilisation, which flourished from 2800 to 1450 BC.

The palace of Knossos, just outside Crete’s largest city, Heraklio, is the most magnificent of Crete’s Minoan sites.

While Heraklio is a modern, wealthy but somewhat charmless city, the other large towns, Chania and Rethymno, are packed with beautiful Venetian buildings.

Paleohora, on the southwest coast, was discovered by hippies in the 1960s and from then on its days as a quiet fishing village were numbered, but it remains a relaxing place favoured by backpackers.

Many travelers spend a day trekking though the 18km-long Samaria Gorge to get to Agia Roumeli on the southwest coast.

Further along the south coast, which is too precipitous to support large settlements, are the villages of Loutro and Hora Sfakion, linked by boat. The climate on the south coast is so mild that swimming is possible from April to November.

The Greek Alphabet
The Greek Alphabet

The Greek Alphabet

The Greek Alphabet

The word “Alphabet” comes from the two first letters of the Greek Alphabet: Alfa and Beta. Because many of the Greek letters are different from the Latin ones, this becomes something of a deterrent for those trying to learn the language, and just the expression “It’s all Greek to me” tells a lot about the attitude many people have towards Greek.

A lot of the Greek words are actually words we use in our own languages.
And yes, it IS a difficult language but it’s not THAT difficult that you can’t learn it. You can learn to make conversation with a little effort, and if you are able to read the letters, you’ll find that

Α, α = Alfa
Β, β = Vita
Γ, γ = Gamma
Δ, δ = Delta
Ε, ε = Epsilon
Ζ, ζ = Zita
Η, η = Ita
Θ, θ = Thita
Ι, ι = Yiota
Κ, κ = Kappa
Λ, λ = Lamda
Μ, μ = Mi
Ν, ν = Ni
Ξ, ξ = Xi (Ksi)
Ο, ο = Omikron
Π, π = Pi
Ρ, ρ = Ro
Σ, σ = Sigma
Τ, τ = Taff
Υ, υ = Ipsilon
Φ, φ = Fi
Χ, χ = XI
Ψ, ψ = Psi
Ω, ω = Omega